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8 min read

How to Get Rid of Fleas on Cats & Prevent a Flea Infestation

Medically Reviewed by

Tracy Isenberg, LVT

Ensuring your cat is comfortable, healthy, and safe are top priorities as a pet parent. But sometimes you may run into irritating parasites, like fleas.

Finding fleas is stressful on its own — treating fleas on cats is another story. Keep reading to learn more about what to do if your cat has fleas.

What to do if your cat has fleas

First, don't panic — it is possible to gain total flea control in cats. You'll need a flea comb to remove fleas, flea dirt, eggs, and larvae in your cat's fur from head to tail.

But, before you begin it's important to know that getting rid of fleas takes time, effort, and resources. Follow these tips for addressing your flea problem quickly and safely.

1. Know where to look for adult fleas and flea eggs.

Where to Check Cat For Fleas

Cat fleas aren’t especially easy to find because of their size and reddish-brown color. And, they can be difficult to spot if your cats have long, thick, or dark brown fur.

To narrow your search, try looking in these common places:

  • Behind their ears
  • Around their eyes
  • Around the neck
  • Near their hind legs
  • In their armpits or groin
  • Their stomach or abdomen
  • At the base of their tail

Slowly work through your cat’s hair parting and brushing it backward. Be on the lookout for fleas, dirt, and other signs of infection.

2. Recognize the signs of infection from cat fleas.

Signs of Fleas

If you’ve found evidence of fleas, your cat has likely suffered a few flea bites already. Unfortunately, fleas can cause a lot of problems for your pet. If you notice any of these signs of fleas on cats, contact your veterinarian right away.

Scratching

It’s normal for cats to scratch on occasion. But, if your cat is scratching or biting the same area frequently your cat might be suffering from flea allergies.

Excessive grooming and hair loss

Cats may lick and groom irritated areas excessively to relieve the itch. When your cat scratches and licks to relieve the itch from the bite, they may start to lose their hair. Hair loss often occurs across their back, hind legs, and tail.

Scabs and skin infections

If your cat has a reaction to the flea bite you may start to see red bumps on their skin. Flea bites are very small but can become inflamed and tear open the more your cat scratches.

Anemia

Fleas can consume up to 15x their body weight in blood. So, your cat may experience signs of anemia like pale gums and low energy.

If you notice signs of fleas on cats, contact your veterinarian right away. The sooner you get your cat treatment the sooner they’ll get back to normal health.

3. Learn about common flea-borne diseases.

On top of causing skin irritation and infection, fleas can carry disease. While tick-borne illnesses are often more dangerous, there are a few infectious diseases that could affect your cat.

Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD)

Flea allergy dermatitis is a common allergic reaction of flea saliva that causes small bumps and red patches on your pet. Your cat may deal with the infection on two levels. First with the flea bite, and second due to open sores from scratching the bite.

Bartonella (Cat-scratch disease)

Cat-scratch disease got its name from the way that bacteria travels from other animals to an infected cat. Bartonella passes through flea feces and infects the scratched pet through abrasions in their skin. It can lead to weight loss, weakness, anemia, and swollen lymph nodes.

4. Use proper tools to remove and kill fleas.

Tools to Remove Fleas

Start by collecting the right tools to extract fleas from your cat. You’ll need:

  • A flea comb (to find and remove any visible fleas)
  • A bowl of soap and hot water (to kill adult fleas instantly)
  • A clean, white paper towel (to see flea dirt)
  • Flea treatments for every pet
  • Cat treats to reward and distract your cat

5. Pick the type of flea treatment for your cat.

Gaining complete flea control can take up to three months, so don’t lose hope. To make sure your cat stays protected all year, consider a vet-quality flea and tick treatment. Here are a few types to consider:

Types of Treatment

Fast-acting tablets

A fast-acting tablet, with the active ingredient Nitenpyram, starts killing fleas in a few hours. These products work best to treat a current problem. And, when paired with a preventative product to avoid future flea infestations.

Topical (spot-on) treatments

Applied directly to your cat’s fur, spot-on treatments spread throughout their natural oils and hair follicles. The best topical treatments repel and kill adult fleas, flea eggs, and flea larvae.

Wearable flea treatments

The most common wearable treatment is a flea collar that goes around your pet's neck. A flea collar is effective in preventing fleas on cats for about 6 to 8 months.

Oral flea medication

Oral flea products usually come in a pill or chew and are great for controlling fleas, ticks, heartworm, and tapeworm infection. But, you will need a prescription from your vet to start protecting your pet.

Flea shampoo

To get rid of an immediate flea infestation, a flea bath can be a great solution. Soak your cat in a mixture of soapy water made with flea shampoo or dish soap. But, it's best as a one-time solution and to use a topical or oral treatment for long-term flea control.

Natural flea remedies

Home remedies are convenient, but these solutions aren’t 100% effective and may be toxic to your pets. Some common remedies include apple cider vinegar, essential oils, and diatomaceous earth. Talk to your vet about the pros and cons of each for your pets.

Natural Remedies

6. Find a treatment that fits your pet's needs.

The treatment process for adult cats is different from removing fleas from kittens. So, before you use anything that kills adult fleas, make sure it's safe (and made) for your cat. Seek your veterinarian's advice to find the right treatment for your cat’s unique needs.

The right treatment depends on:

  • Species
  • Age and weight
  • Health issues
  • Pregnancy status
  • Environment

7. Look for key active ingredients.

The best treatment for cats includes active ingredients that kill and repel fleas and ticks at all life stages. Here’s what to look for:

  • Fipronil
  • Imidacloprid
  • Nitenpyram
  • Methoprene
  • Pyriproxyfen
VET TIP

Topical treatments that contain Permethrin can be fatal for cats. If your dog's treatment contains Permethrin, make sure you keep them away from your cat for at least 24 hours. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you suspect exposure.

8. Be consistent with flea preventives.

Extra treatments and emergency cat check-ups can result in hundreds of dollars spent trying to treat fleas on your pet. That’s why a consistent treatment process is the best way to prevent fleas.

Whether you notice many fleas or even a single flea, you can assume other cats (and other pets) also have fleas. Follow the instructions provided with your monthly treatment to get rid of fleas right away. On top of treating your feline friend, make sure all pets have year-round flea protection.

9. Vacuum throughout your home.

If you’re dealing with an active infestation you will need to treat your pets and your home. The female flea can lay over 2,000 eggs in its lifetime. When fleas lay eggs, they may drop onto your floors, furniture, and your pet's bedding.

Rid of Fleas in Your House

Using a vacuum cleaner can help you get rid of 30-90% of eggs and debris. Dispose of the vacuum bag contents in a garbage can outdoors. Or, you can place debris in soapy water to kill all the fleas.

Then, soak your cat’s bedding, blankets, and soft toys with soap and hot water to remove fleas. Finally, use a spray bottle to wipe down hard surfaces and toys with disinfectant.

10. Safeguard your environment.

After a thorough cleaning of your home, you'll need to protect your home from a future infestation. You can use a professional exterminator to treat your home every few weeks. Or, take matters into your own hands with a household spray.

Flea sprays for houses break up their life cycle and can help you prevent a future infestation. If you have an indoor cat, make sure the spray is dry before letting them roam around in your home.

Don't let a flea infestation take over your home. Follow these tips to get rid of fleas and protect your pets from infection and disease. And as always, consult with your veterinarian to keep your cats safe and comfortable.

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